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Cuyahoga County OKs $29.6 Million Increase for Health and Human Services Projects

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 7:41 PM

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Cuyahoga County is one step closer to approving how to spend part of the money raised by its health and human services levy, which voters agreed to raise last month. ideastream's Nick Castele reports county council green-lighted an additional millions of dollars for final approval.

Under the proposed budget, the MetroHealth system would get $8 million more in funding over the next two years. The county mental health and addiction board would get a $10 million increase.

Other spending priorities include upgrading outdated information systems, expanding the county’s universal pre-kindergarten program and fighting bed bugs in senior housing.

All told, council is recommending spending an additional $29.6 million over the current two-year budget. Money from the levy will cover part of that, but additional funds will come from a pot of unspent public assistance dollars from the federal government.

Councilman Dan Brady said in the near term, the county can afford it - and he says it would be wrong not to spend that money.

“I think it’s almost immoral to sit on reserves that are this large when we have so many needs in this community,” Brady said.

Still, some council members greeted with skepticism proposals for pilot projects by County Executive Ed FitzGerald’s office - such as offering college orientation for foster kids. 

Councilman Michael Gallagher and a few other council members said they didn’t want to spend money on those until they knew more about how they would work.

Gallagher said voters passed the levy increase thinking the money would go to MetroHealth and services for homelessness, not these.

“I wonder what the outcome would have been had we put this list out to the voters,” Gallagher said. “And my guess is we would have been in trouble.”

After several hours of debate, all but one item was passed out of committee. Council meets to take one more vote on the whole budget, including these measures, next Tuesday.)

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